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«SPECIAL EDUCATION TEACHERS AND WORK STRESS: EXPLORING THE COMPETING INTERESTS MODEL By LARRY DEAN BUSH JR A dissertation submitted in partial ...»

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SPECIAL EDUCATION TEACHERS AND WORK STRESS: EXPLORING

THE COMPETING INTERESTS MODEL

By

LARRY DEAN BUSH JR

A dissertation submitted in partial fulfillment

of the requirements for the degree of

DOCTOR OF EDUCATION

WASHINGTON STATE UNIVERSITY

College of Education MAY 2010 ©Copyright by LARRY DEAN BUSH, 2010 All Rights Reserved ii To the Faculty of Washington State University The members of the Committee appointed to examine the dissertation of LARRY DEAN BUSH JR find it satisfactory and recommend that it be accepted.

______________________________

Gail C. Furman, Ph.D., Chair ______________________________

Forrest W. Parkay, Ph.D ______________________________

Danny L. Talbot, Ed.D.

iii

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

I am indebted to the many people who assisted me in completing this study. I am thankful to Dr. Gail Furman for her delicate balance between encouragement and high expectations. She was the first to recognize my ideas and encourage me to explore them in more depth. Her involvement was fundamental to the formation of this project and my own increased humanization. I will always be grateful to her.

I am also thankful to the many individuals who helped me to develop my ideas from experiential speculation to a robust, research driven model. Dr. Forrest Parkay’s social foundations in education, Dr. Len Foster’s philosophy of education class, and Dr. Dawn Shinew’s research epistemology gave me the opportunity to explore the junction of power, class, gender, and race upon public education. In addition, Dr. Eric Anctil’s education policy class was fundamental in exploring the impact of federal policy upon local public education and Dr. Danny Talbot was instrumental in helping me to express my ideas and thoughts clearly. I will always be grateful to the many people who have given me the opportunity to explore, reflect, and act upon my own humanization.

I am also grateful to my employer, the Educational Service District 123 (ESD 123), for encouraging and accommodating my studies. It was the initial support of ESD 123 that bolstered my courage and resolve to pursue doctoral studies.They have been fundamental in my development as an educational leader. I could not have completed this project without their support.

I am also grateful to Kim Trusty. Kim was the first to hire me into public education and always had time to guide my development into a professional educator and leader. I cannot

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Long before public education, there were many who encouraged my growth and development. Everything I have accomplished is a result of the direct and indirect involvement of my family. I am grateful to my Aunt Jan for teaching me to think critically and act gracefully.

I am grateful to my Uncle Squirt for teaching me to laugh and to put family first. I am grateful to my Aunt Pam and Uncle Mike for their never-ending encouragement and belief in me. I am also grateful to my Aunt Brenda and Uncle Verlo for their resolve to do the right thing during wrong times. I am also grateful to my in-laws, Earl and Barbara Wilson, for their support and encouragement during lean times. Finally, I am grateful to my Aunt Barbara and Grandma Morgan for their empathetic understanding and encouragement. As I reflect upon their involvement in my growth and development, I know that I have been well loved. I cannot fully express my appreciation, but simply hope their enduring love has been reciprocated in my actions.

I am also thankful to father, mother, and stepmother. While our life together has not been easy, there is no doubt they did their best to provide for my brother and me. I appreciate my father’s work ethic, my stepmother’s insistence upon giving my best on everything I did, and my mother’s gentle easy-going attitude. While our relationship is convoluted, there is no doubt they love me and I love them.

I am grateful to my wife of 20 years, Angela. The unending parade of pets and a home full of plants highlights her nurturing capacity. I appreciate her encouragement, support, and nurturing of my ambitions. I also thank my two sons, Darick and Lucas, for their patience while I was “in the basement” writing. They are great kids who will soon be great men.

This has been a wonderful experience and I thank everyone who contributed to the

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Chair: Gail C. Furman The purpose of this qualitative study was two-fold: (a) to explore K-12 special education teachers’ experiences with work challenges and perceptions of stress and potential burnout; and (b) to explore the usefulness of the Special Education Teacher Competing Interests Model to explain their perceptions of stress and potential burnout. Four research questions were addressed in this study: (a) How do special education teachers describe their core values in regard to special education and their work motives? (b) How do special education teachers describe and interpret the rewards and satisfactions of their work? (c) How do special education teachers describe the challenges and dissatisfaction of their work? (d) How do special education teachers cope with challenges and attempt to succeed in their work?





Nineteen, novice and veteran special education teachers from 13 rural and urban school districts in eastern Washington State participated in this study. Open-ended interviews were the primary means of data collection. The data analysis used a constant comparative process and

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values and motives; special education teachers’ work challenges; special education teachers responses to work challenges; and special education teachers’ affective responses to work challenges. These themes were compared to the Competing Interests Model, resulting in modification of the model. The revised model helps explains the work experiences of special education teachers. reflect manifestations of bifurcated school-based cultures created by

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ACKNOWLEDGMENTS………………………………………………………………………..iii ABSTRACT……………………………………………………………………………………...v CHAPTER

1. INTRODUCTION………………………………………………………………….....1 Background………………………………………………………………………..2 Research Problem…………………………………………………………………4 Study Purpose and Research Questions……………………………………..…….4 Research Methods…………………………………………………………………5 Positionality……………………………………………………………………….5 Special Education Teacher Competing Interests Model…………....……………12

2. REVIEW OF LITERATURE Introduction………………………………………………………………………13 Conceptual Frames of Occupational Stress……………………………………...13 Conceptual Frames of Teacher Stress……………………………………………20 Conceptual Frames of Career Pathways of Special Education Teachers………..23 Conceptual Frames of Special Education Burnout………………..……………..30 Towards a Special Education Teacher Conceptual Model of Burnout…………..36

3. RESEARCH METHODOLOGY AND DESIGN

Introduction………………………………………………………………………46 Research Methodology…………………………………………………………..46

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Site Selection…………………………………………………………….47 Participant Selection……………………………………………………..47 Two-Phase Study Design………………………………………..............48 Data Collection and Analysis……………………………………………49 Credibility and Ethics……………………………………………………51

4. FINDINGS Introduction………………………………………………………………………52 Who They Are – Special Education Teachers’ Values and Motives…………….53 Special Education Teachers Work Challenges…………………………………..58 The Paperwork Challenge………………………………………………..58 Finding Curriculum and Resources……………………………………...63 Bridging the Cultural Gap – Understanding Dual Culture Workplace…..67 Keeping Peace in the Family – Supervising Paraeducators……………...71 Special Education Teachers Responses to Work Challenges……………………73 Veteran Teachers’ Responses to Work Challenges……………………...74 Novice Teachers’ Response to Work Challenges………………………..77 A Minority Report………………………………………………………..81 Special Education Teachers Affective Responses to Work Challenges…………83

5. CONCLUSIONS AND IMPLICATIONS

Introduction………………………………………………………………………87 Conclusions………………………………………………………………………88 Thematic Connections to the Model……………………………………………. 89

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Special Education Teachers’ Work Challenges………………………….90 Special Education Teachers’ Responses to Work Challenges…………..93 Special Education Teachers’ Affective Responses to Work Challenges..94 The Utility of the Competing Interests Model…………………………………..96 Implications………………………………………………………………………97 Reflections……………………………………………………………………....98 REFERENCES…………………………………………………………………………………100 APPENDIX A. The Special Education Teacher Competing Interests Model……………………….114 B. The Person-Environment Fit Model………………………………………………..115 C. Novice Special Education Teacher Interview Guide……………………………….116 D. Veteran Special Education Teachers Interview Guide……………………………..117

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This dissertation is dedicated to the teachers who participated in the study and the many other passionate teachers dedicated to students with disabilities.

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Fimian and Santoro (1983) described the increasing incidence of burnout symptoms in Kspecial education teachers eight years after the passage of the ground-breaking legislation, “The Education of All Handicapped Children.” Reflecting Fimian and Santoro’s research, there is a growing body of evidence related to attrition among special education teachers and the difficulty in filling these roles in K-12 schools. Nationwide estimates indicate approximately 4,000 special education positions went unfilled and 28,000 positions were filled by staff not fully certified during the 2000 school year (Eichinger, 2000). Fore, Martin, and Bender (2002) estimated that approximately 20 percent of special educators planned to leave the special education field within five years. Results from the Study of Personnel Needs in Special Education (SPeNSE) on 1,153 beginning special education teachers indicated that 50 percent intended to remain in special education until retirement (Carlson, Brauen, Klein, Schroll, & Willig, 2002). In addition, Carlson, Brauen, Klein, Schroll, and Willig (2002) indicate that the greatest barrier to recruitment of special education teachers reported by school administrators was a shortage of qualified personnel. In Washington state, the Washington Education Association’s (2002) survey research found that 36 percent of special educators working in the field plan to continue in their jobs for the next five years. Finally, Wisniewski and Gargiulo (1997) found that the average special education teacher remains in the classroom for approximately six years.

Despite this research concerning special education teacher attrition and burnout, there is a lack of in-depth research that explores the personal experiences of K-12 special education teachers about these issues, especially in Washington State. While some researchers (Billingsley, 1993 & 2004; Brownell & Smith, 1993; Maslach & Leiter, 1997) have developed conceptual frameworks to explain the burnout and attrition of teachers in general, these do not address the unique contextual factors experienced by K-12 special education teachers. This study seeks to address this issue through an in-depth exploration of K-12 special education teachers’ experiences and perceptions with the goal of developing a conceptual framework that takes into account these unique contextual factors.

–  –  –

Freudenberger (1974) was one of the first to conceptualize burnout in the service professions, such as teaching, as a chronic depletion of emotional energy, motivation, and commitment in response to the interpersonal demands of the care-giving professional role.

Maslach (1976) further conceptualized burnout as directly related to the care-giving service providers underlying values and beliefs. Maslach’s three-component conceptualization of burnout is the most commonly accepted definition of burnout (Cordes & Dougherty, 1993).

According to Maslach (2003), burnout is the stress that arises from the interpersonal demands in the work environment and is a pattern of emotional overload and exhaustion. Often referred to as compassion fatigue, the key dimensions of the burnout syndrome are emotional exhaustion, depersonalization, and a reduced sense of accomplishment (Maslach, 2003). Despite thirty years of research, teacher burnout and attrition has no direct indices or unified and predictive models;

instead, researchers use indirect measures to discuss teacher burnout and attrition (Wisniewski & Gargiulo, 1997).



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